Ngātiwai dominate at waka ama world champs

Team “Angry Teddie Bears” huddle together in celebration after winning Gold in the W12 Junior under 19 women’s 500 Metres event
The world waka ama championships were held at Lake Kawana on Australia’s Sunshine Coast from 5 – 15 May 2016, proving to be a substantial event with 2,200 paddlers representing 23 countries all competing with pure determination. It became very clear after day 1 of the champs that Team Aotearoa had laid down the wero (challenge) as the team to beat.

Historically Tahiti have been the dominating team at previous world champs.  Waka ama is the number one sport in Tahiti and they were clearly the team to beat again this year.  However, this year teams from all around Aotearoa dominated the championships, with 79 medals awarded and 9 world records being beaten, the teams from Aotearoa proved that they were deserving of their new status as the No.1 ranked team in the world, pushing long time world champions Tahiti into 2nd place.
The dominance of the paddlers from Aotearoa was such that their performances at the championships were described as “The Black Wave”.  Of the 79 medals awarded, 30 were Gold, 27 Silver and 22 Bronze.

The paddlers from Ngātiwai were determined to show the world that, Ngātiwai – the people of the sea, could compete with the best in the world.
Representing Teams from Aotearoa ki Ngātiwai were:

  • Toi Tehuatahi Munroe
  • Tony Munroe
  • Carrell Morunga
  • Tāne Heta
  • Kalaia Heta
  • Zane Heta
  • Kahu Sakey
  • Kewene Edmonds
  • Keala Kjeldsen
  • Alia Kjeldsen

All of the paddlers represented their team, whanau, hapū and iwi with pride and with outstanding results.

Team “Fat Oysters” paddlers’ Tane Heta, Toi Tehuatahi Munroe, Kewene Edmonds, Carrell Morunga and Kahu Sakey won Gold in the V12 Junior under 16 Men’s 500 Metres event, Silver in the V6 Turns Junior under 16 Men’s 100 Metres event and Bronze in the V6 Junior under 16 Men’s 500 Metres event.

Tane’s older sisters Kalaia and Zane Heta also had great results in the junior under 19 Girls with their Team “Angry Teddie Bears” winning Gold in the Junior 19 W12 500m race and the title of World Champions. They also placed 5th in the W6 500m, cutting a massive 10 seconds off their New Zealand qualifying time.   

Their mother Shontelle Ferguson described her tamariki performances and results as “Awesome!  I was blown away and super proud of their results.”

“The effort and dedication that the teams put in was huge.  Most of the teams were training every night of the week, whether it be on the water paddling, in the gym or running the streets.  Just to qualify for the World Champs was a great achievement.”  

To qualify for the world champs, individuals and teams had to compete at the national championships, and to be selected, had to perform at the highest level and against fierce competition. Months’ worth of training and effort went in just to qualify at a national level. Once the teams qualified for the world championships, they needed to focus and train even harder in order to prove themselves at the world championships.

Shontelle said “It is great for them to know that if they put in the effort and commitment that it can pay off in the end.  Some of teams were travelling twice a week from Whangarei to Waipapa to train with their teams plus most weekends.  I also cannot thank whanau enough for their support in so many ways.”

Kewene Edmonds’ mother, Cherie Edmonds said “We are so proud of our son and his team for what they have achieved.  All their long hours of training, commitment and dedication has paid off. They set a goal to qualify for the worlds and with all the support from family and friends they made it. Bringing home the bling was the icing on the cake.

Reflecting on his first trip to the world championships, Kewene said “It is awesome to have success in a sport I am so passionate about locally and on the world stage.  Big mihi to all our whanau, friends, iwi and community for their support in getting us to the worlds. It was great to see so many Ngātiwai youth reach excellence in our sport!”

Since coming home from the world championships, most of the teams have already begun training and focusing on their next events that they will be competing in later this year.

Kalaia and Zane have been invited to paddle at a regatta in Rarotonga in November, and Tane is heading to Tahiti in July.  Prior to these trips most of the paddlers will also be competing in a regatta at Parua Bay, the “Hoe Matariki Wama Ama Regatta”. No rest for these dedicated paddlers!

All the paddlers who participated at the world champs said it was a fantastic experience, and for those that were crowned as world champions, they were able to reap the rewards of what twelve months of hard work, belief, commitment, determination and perseverance could amount to – being World Champions!  The vast experiences they gained not only from competing but from networking with other competitors and being a part of all the different cultures, have culminated into special memories the paddlers will have for life. 

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